Converting Tomatoes.

In between having a lovely (although short), overnight Easter camping get together, I have been converting tomatoes into pickles and soup and making stock from scraps from the soup and what I had saved in the freezer.  I was delighted last week to find when I got home, a large box of Periform Abruzzo tomatoes sitting on my verandah. Two years ago, I gave George from Tarra Valley Foods  some of this variety and he saved some seed and has had wonderful success saying the yield has been great. How lovely of him to pass on some of his harvest back to me. If ever you are heading east on the Princes Highway and go through Rosedale, call in and sample (and buy) some of George and Jenny’s beautiful preserves. They also enjoy a chat and would make you feel most welcome.

So these tomatoes were converted into:

Tomato Pickles.

This Tomato Pickles Recipe was given to me a couple of years ago and it has turned into a family favourite. I rarely make tomato sauce anymore as this pickle can be used in so many ways we prefer it and you can knock some up pretty easily. Tomatoes and onions chopped and brined overnight (this is a double batch).IMG_6722 Hopefully this will be the last season I’ll need to resort to this method for cooking. Actually I can guarantee it will be the last, coz if I don’t have the new kitchen next year I won’t be making anything! Brown vinegar, sugar and spices cooked with tomatoes and onions. When cooked for about 40 mins I added a couple of tablespoons of cornflour (real, not wheat) to maintain its gluten free title.

Gas burner verandahThe pickle is then bottled. I did cut back the sugar content by about a third and we find it still quite sweet but not too much so.Tomato Pickles

Tomato Soup

I read on Francesca’s blog a couple of weeks ago about her ‘Moulin Rouge retro Tomato Soup’ and it really appealed to me so on went a batch of that. Francesca used a Mouli to press (puree) the cooked ingredients but I used my tomato passata processor and it worked well. Happy, mine isn’t as pretty as Francesca’s but it tastes lovely and we now have quite a decent stash of ready to go meals in the freezer.

Here are the veggies cooking and the last of my home-made stock going in to the pot.

IMG_6738I ran all the cooked goodies through the tomato mill a couple of times to get the maximum flavour possible extracted.IMG_6748Then into freezer containers (reclaimed take away meal boxes) for a rainy day. When I cook/reheat this I will add some fresh basil and white pepper before serving.

IMG_6749As I said, not as pretty but I was very happy with the taste. We added a dollop of greek yogurt and it was a nice balance.Tomato Soup


With the end bits of what went into the soup, a few of the onion skins and tops and tails from the pickles plus having used up the last of my stock in the soup, it was time to make up some more stock. This is so satisfying and I haven’t bought stock for years now. It is so easy. As you prepare dishes any trimmings or bones etc just get tossed into a bag or container in the freezer and you add to it every time you have some. when the bag is full, pop the whole lot into the slow cooker (not the bag!) with some peppercorns (I don’t add salt) and let it simmer away overnight.

Slow cooker stockI notice this bag also had a chicken carcass in it from a roast chicken.

IMG_6737I now have about 5 litres of beautiful stock that I know what is in. The chook has had a great feed of pickings and the remainder of the cooked matter will go into the compost. Win, win all round!


Years ago my friend bought a dryer and I have used it most seasons since to dry something or another. I usually do tomatoes then store them in Spanish olive oil with garlic and chilli and we eat them as a snack. This year though I am making tomato powder. I did this years ago and it was quite good. You dry the tomatoes really well then blitz in a processor and store the powder in a good air tight container and use it for seasoning as needed.

Drying tomatoesThe tomatoes after 6 hours in the dryer.

IMG_6755I love doing this with bananas. Buy them when cheap, slice and dip in lemon juice, dry and munch, munch, munch!

Last but not least-Seed saving

I put all of the dodgy bits of tomatoes and rough tops and bottoms into a bowl. There were loads of seed in some of them so I filled the bowl with water and will let them ferment for a few days then I will separate the seed from the pulp and dry and store the seed. Once the seed is removed the rest will go into the compost and the whole cycle begins again.

IMG_6760Next week or so will be passata time! Now that’s a fun thing to do in a limited kitchen. What are some of your best tomato saving tips?


Our hard work is becoming evident.

We are at a major turning point in our exteno. My emotions are mixed, I love the new works but I also love the old, original parts of the house that add quirkiness and character (along with some interesting odours!) to the personality of it. I really believe we are marrying the best of both periods to the home. Keeping as much as we can to stay true to the character of the house, while, still being practical about what works with our long term plans.

I was quite emotional when now tonight,  I can really begin to see the efforts of all the hard work coming to fruition. I’m not talking about the exterior, that is different, I mean the space inside that will become the warm hub of the home where people meet, food is created and lessons are taught to others. Drinks and eats around the table, laughter and probably tears. This is what I greeted me when I came out from the makeshift kitchen (see below) and it moved me. The plaster is well under way which means the last of the old black, 3ply ceiling is about to be hidden. The chimney brickwork is looking beautiful and the hours of work on removing the paint from that are proving to be worth it.

IMG_0247It was after I had spent a few hours tonight making some mini quiches to take to work tomorrow for a morning tea that it struck me for the first time just how arduous its been actually getting anything cooked. I think I must have a bit of ‘just suck it up and get on with it mindset’.  It isn’t until I try and turn out bulk quantities of food that it really gets to me. Do you have any idea how long it takes to turn 1 packet of puff pastry into mini quiches when you can only cook 6 at a time? Bloody ages is the answer.

IMG_6682 Mini quiches

But you do get there. While the quiches were cooking I put together a few loaves of bread that I will bake at work.

There is the herb, chilli and feta cheese loaf which comprised 400g  40% rye sourdough gently pulled out and spread with freshly picked herbs, feta cheese, a little cheddar (left over from quiches), and some hot chilli flakes. I’ve rolled this into a batard shape and will prove overnight and bake tomorrow.

Herb, feta chilli sourdough loaf breadNext was the walnut, cranberry, sultana and apple loaf. Chopped some walnuts, spread out 400g white sourdough and spread, walnuts, cranberries and sultanas that I had soaked in a little juice to rehydrate over it. I then sprinkled, brown sugar, dutch cinnamon and a grated Granny Smith apple (ours) which I had squeezed the excess juice from  and spread over the nuts and fruit.

IMG_6695then rolled the dough into a bun/scroll shape. This will also be baked at work tomorrow.

IMG_6697It’s nights like these I get extremely excited about being able to cook in a much more relaxed and organised manner. It really is quite an effort continuing the way we have been. I know everyone has been telling that, I just chose to ignore it and make do.

The final tweaking of the kitchen layout is done! It may have resulted in me having a MAJOR panic attack but we got there. That gap on the left is the chimney space.

IMG_0242It really does look like I’ll fit a bit more than I thought into the space. Can’t wait!

Don’t go Eeeeew yet!

There is a reason it looks a bit ugly!Textured renderWe have had the external render applied and it looks rather weird at the moment.  Because the original finish on the house is textured, we opted to match it as best we could. The strange appearance you see in the shot above is because a layer of ‘spatter’ has been applied over the smooth render, then that’s been troweled to smoothe it off. Because this spatter layer is more cement than anything else it has a different colour to the render underneath. It reminds me of the old tramways or railway station toilets that were painted in 2 tone green! Once its painted it will come close to fitting in un-noticed with the original render.

IMG_6632There are two major jobs scheduled to start this week. The floor boards in the kitchen/dining area being laid and the plastering of all the walls and ceilings. The floor will become the  same level right through the entire room. The blue thing in the centre is where the sink will be. See how the original floor sits up about 60mm from the slab, that will all become one level.

IMG_6608Then there is the plastering. These 2 jobs will entirely change the feel of the entire space I am sure. I must admit to being a little melancholy last night, it took so long before we could get started and now we are going to the final stages it seems a little surreal. I will almost miss the horrid smell of rotten timber and the wondering about how things will look. For the first time in years, we are finding that having a space where we can have a dedicated table for people to gather and prop is proving a great addition. This space is already proving to be a natural gathering space, I love that!

IMG_6626 IMG_6605

Our first family dinner in this space went well (considering the conditions). I put a leg of lamb in the slow cooker, sat upon a bed of onions, a few tomatoes, some mint, rosemary and a blend of different peppercorns. I also did the obligatory slivers of garlic placed into the joint. I covered the leg with some foil to retain the steam and let it do it’s own thing for about 10 hours on low.

slow cooker roast lambI had been hankering for a traditional roast, but due to an ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitude and a quite obvious change to preferences, I opted for a blend of roast crossed with a pulled lamb style dish. I did normal roast veg, some roasted tomatoes in olive oil, pepper and a slurp of red wine vinegar. This is how you manage in a toy oven for space when doing this


I made a yoghurt dip just by adding chopped mint to greek style yoghurt then drizzled it with garlic-infused olive oil, cooked some peas which the roast tomatoes and mint were mixed with. I drained the excess fat from the slow cooker juices, added a little red wine vinegar and blitzed it to make a juice (jus?) rather than make a heavy gravy. All these were set on the table with flatbread so whoever wanted the traditional roast could serve that and for those like me who wanted a wrap/pulled style meal I could just put what I wanted onto the flatbread, wrap and munch. That yoghurt, mint and garlic oil was a winner. I really enjoy this style of eating now as my dodgy hands always make me feel a bit self conscious when trying to tackle using a knife and fork. First of many family dinners in this new space I think!

IMG_6626In the garden it is obviously taking the turn to Autumn, yet I am still feeling the sting of Summer! It is bizarre, it feels as though it is cooling down then at 8.30pm the temp seems to rise and the humidity climbs back up. Not conducive to good sleeping patterns I’m sad to say.

The tomatoes are coming to an end, this has been a great season indeed for them.

IMG_6586Very excited to see how our floor and plastering shape up!

In My Kitchen- Nothing really, but we had a darn good wedding :)

Well, we’ve had a wedding, visitors for the wedding staying, a post wedding luncheon, heating specialists, builders, plumbers, electricians all in and out. Haven’t known if I’m Arthur or Martha most of the time! Not much in the way of food I’m afraid…..

I have to share a couple of wedding snippets. Our younger son married his partner in a beautiful garden wedding ceremony on a spectacular day. The wedding ceremony was in the beautiful gardens of Springbank B&B Warragul. This was one hell of a wedding! Laughs, fun, catching up and way too much merriment on my part.

IMG_6510-001The service was followed by a reception at Warragul Country Club, great night was had by all!D&AOur daughter made the stunning wedding cake, not bad for a brand new mum of a six-week old. Flowers on the cake were made to match the wedding floral arrangements. This beautiful fudge cake was used as the dessert course of the reception. It tasted as good it looked I’m pleased to report.

IMG_0173Our new little grandson was decked out in his groovy ‘tux’ onesy. He was about to break into a yell here but mostly he coped really well for the entire night.

IMG_0177I got to have some precious hug time while our daughter joined in the merriment. He didn’t miss a beat and behaved brilliantly all night.

12419228_10154590187644237_3614922155547431600_oI was lucky enough to score one of the table flower arrangements. The most amazing chrysanthemums, gypsophila and I think hydrangea. Beautiful!
IMG_6554The day after the wedding we had about 30 here for lunch. It was very lucky that I had prepared so much in advance as my head was rather fuzzy, my feet, knees and hips were extremely sore due to ridiculous dancing moves that were OK 30 years ago but apparently can no longer be considered a sensible thing to do. I had visions of the Kel, Kath & Sharon dancing scenes from Kath & Kim episodes flash in front of my eyes.

For lunch on the Sunday it was simply a barbecue that I had made burgers for earlier in the week and froze. Some sausages, nothing flash, just basic ones from the butcher. The meat was served with my favourite Belinda’s Tomato Pickles that I’d made a half batch of earlier in the week and also home-made tomato sauce and mustard. I made several loaves of herb bread on the BBQ (lucky the dough was ready in the fridge), a couple of salads and lots of soft drink and water. I think it went down well!

Sourdough bread sticks Grilled onions, potato salad, my new favourite Freekah, hazelnut and roast capsicum salad and tomato, red onion, cucumber, red wine vinegar and olive oil with feta cheese salad. I didn’t get around to making the garlic croutons to serve with this.IMG_0205A well deserved nap in the hammock after everyone had left and we had done the dishes in this makeshift babies bath kitchen sink. I think this was dishes batch number 5!

IMG_6549The reno is still progressing well, we are just about to plaster. The second photo is the kitchen same wall from before we moved in just over 3 years ago. The kitchen ended where the old oven is and we have extended the whole area out. You can just see on the floor between the ladder and the clothes horse where the old floor is. The ladder is standing where the fridge will go and my real oven will be in between the windows. The floor will be wormy chestnut floorboards running right through the whole room. I’m a little bit excited!


Kitchen cupboards. This makes us giggle as Sheila was 'knee high to a grasshopper' and we can hardly reach the first shelf let alone the ones that go up to the the original 11'6 ceilings. Under this bottom unit, the original brick cellar is still in place. This was used for storing, cheese, butter and milk before refrigeration was readily available. The old laundry hoist hooks are also still in the ceiling, this would have housed a pulley system where washing was put onto rails similar to a clothes horse and pulled up high where it captured the heat from the stove and dried. Once dry the rails would have been lowered and dry washing removed.
Kitchen cupboards. This makes us giggle as Sheila was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ and we can hardly reach the first shelf let alone the ones that go up to the the original 12’6 ceilings. Under this bottom unit, the original brick cellar is still in place. This was used for storing, cheese, butter and milk before refrigeration was readily available. The old laundry hoist hooks are also still in the ceiling, this would have housed a pulley system where washing was put onto rails similar to a clothes horse and pulled up high where it captured the heat from the stove and dried. Once dry the rails would have been lowered and dry washing removed.

The tomato season has come to a sudden halt (apart from the plants in the greenhouse). They have all just turned up and withered almost overnight. Still plenty have fruit set that will ripen over time. I will pull the plants and hang them upside down in the shed. I couldn’t believe this monster! A Hungarian Heart variety that weight in at 614g, I had to cut the exclusion bag to get it out. What’s the biggest tomato you’ve produced?

Hungarian Heart huge tomato

Thanks to Maureen at Orgasmic Chef for linking those of us who like to peek into each others kitchens. I might go and check out some posts that actually have foodie stuff in them now. It’s not however every day you have a wedding to celebrate!

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